Business Casual: Boon or Bane?

March 3, 2010 at 13:30 (Society)

Boon or Bane? Yeh, I dunno what I was talking about.

Anyway, I’m torn. I like my casual clothes! They’re cheaper, easier, and faster…but I can see the points about dressed for success. I really am torn! You?

For this we should all be grateful. Business casual, after all, has never been just about clothes. It’s a mindset, a metaphor for the age we live in. Every time you spend the afternoon surfing porn sites when you’re supposed to be developing new marketing collateral, thank your flat-front Never-Iron Dockers. As technology started getting more personal and portable, business casual helped acclimate us to the fact that work was fusing with the rest of our lives in unprecedented ways. But if, thanks to cell phones, laptops, and email, we could never quite escape our offices anymore, well, at least our offices were no longer so office-like. They were casual, roomier, not so buttoned down.

Imagine how much more slowly the web would have developed without business casual. Waste a few hours staring at the blurry JPGs of a coffee pot in England when you’re wearing a navy suit and a silk rep tie and you feel like a fraud, unprofessional deadwood. Do the same in a business casual environment and it’s suddenly permissible—if there was really that much crucial work to do, would your boss be wearing shorts and an aloha shirt?

The web was an unusually open, informal, flexible medium, and to tap its full potential, we needed the clothes to match. As memos, corporate newsletters, and other traditional forms of office communications gave way to email, instant messaging, blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, we were already used to flowing into and out of work mode, combining the professional with the personal, presenting ourselves in a more expressive, casual manner.

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